The show kicks off with a backstage segment featuring AJ Styles, who sounds pretty confident that he’s going to beat Riddle so long as he doesn’t get distracted by yelling at Daniel Bryan.
Riddle and Bryan also weigh in on this topic, and then we have Alexa, Miz, and Morrison talking about what they’re doing, then Braun. Really, this segment gets around a good section of the locker room. Did their budget for “last time on WWE SmackDown” recap videos run out?
Admittedly, this format segues into Big E delivering the New Day’s introduction live backstage, which is still one of the best things in professional wrestling.
I’ve never seen a more rigged WWE poll
The New Day make their entrance, ready for Big E vs Cesaro in a battle of the super-strong lads. Cesaro shows up, Nakamura in tow, and the winners of this match will apparently choose the stipulation for the title bout. The bell rings, and the match gets underway.
Big E has the early advantage, right up until he shoulder-charges a post and falls out of the ring. Cesaro grabs him and latches on a sleeper hold, compounding the damage with a bodyslam. As Cesaro tries to fly off the top rope, Big E manages to catch him, belly-to-bellying him before squishing the Swissman with the Warrior Splash. E hits him with another splash on the apron, maintaining control as we go to a break.
Post-commercial, things have evened up slightly, though Big E manages to hit a high-impact ura-nage that leaves Cesaro down on the mat. The Swiss Superman rallies, however, catching the New Day member with a knee and following it up with a springboard uppercut. Big E counters the Equaliser with the Stretch Muffler, with Cesaro pulling out his own counter, hitting the Swing, applying the Sharpshooter, then transitioning into the crossface.
Shinsuke takes out Kofi on the outside, taunting Big E, which seems to give E the motivation needed to literally stand up out of Cesaro’s crossface, staring the Artist down as he picks up his tag team partner into the Big Ending. Cesaro struggles out of it, and Nakamura pops up and decks Big E with a kick, leaving him open to the Neutraliser and a Cesaro victory.
Some nice power moves in this match, though I hope we see more at the PPV. 2.5 Stars.
Cesaro and Nakamura head out to grab a table, and it’s a damn good thing they didn’t want a cage match, which I imagine would require a lot more setting up for this bit. Kofi takes out both men with a dive, looking to put Cesaro through a table. Nakamura makes the save, however. I assume WWE’s on something of a strict table budget.
Backstage, Kayla Braxton is asking King Corbin if he’s going to interfere in tonight’s match. His Majesty is a coy little tease, but I’d bet money on him screwing over Riddle tonight and continuing his role as everyone’s favourite starter villain.
Elsewhere backstage, Nakamura and Cesaro are having a little “hurrah for us” party, gloating over the fact that they get to decide the stipulation. I’m holding out for an Inferno match just for the hell of it, but obviously, it’s a Tables match.
Of all the WWE talk shows, A Moment of Bliss really stuck it out
It’s another instalment of A Moment of Bliss. Alexa and Nikki discuss the fifth anniversary of the Women’s Evolution, which WWE somehow managed to not utterly ruin in the manner to which I have become accustomed.
Alexa goes on to make several predictions, including Matt Riddle winning the IC title (wrong) and Braun Strowman retaining the Universal Championship (hopefully correct, if it builds up to a final match against the Fiend), and then mentions her mystery guest. Nikki thinks it’s her, but Bayley and Sasha show up instead. I assume at this point they’re contractually obliged to rock up to different segments and make them better.
Bayley and Banks mock Nikki, because the neurotypicals are a cruel lot sometimes, then try to take credit for all feminism in WWE before pre-emptively declaring victory at Extreme Rules.
At this point, Alexa introduces her special guest: the Empress of Tomorrow. Before Asuka can make it to the ring, Banks and Bayley attack Nikki and Alexa, with Asuka rushing in to make the save. Bliss declares that there will be a tag team match because, as we’ve established, anyone can make matches at any time in this era of SmackDown.
In Glasgow, Nikki is considered surprisingly grounded
The tag team match starts with a fired-up Nikki Cross going right after Bayley, who is able to tip the balance back into her favour through some sneaky double-teams and quick tags, putting Cross down for the meantime. Banks and Bayley continue to dominate, with interference from both women allowing them to remain in control.
Finally, Nikki escapes, tagging in Asuka, who unloads on both Sasha and Bayley. Banks ends up trapped in the ring apron, leaving her vulnerable to attacks from both Nikki Asuka. Bayley gets caught as well, and both Nikki and Asuka are firmly in control as the commercial break begins.
When we come back, Sasha and Bayley have seized the advantage and are wearing down Asuka, who keeps trying to catch both women with surprise roll-ups but who is badly in need of a tag. A flurry from the Empress allows her to tag out, and it’s now Nikki and Sasha – both challengers on Sunday – competing against each other.
Cross keeps Banks reeling until she misses a crossbody, allowing Banks to tag out. Bayley tosses Nikki out of the ring, but that sees her eating a tornado DDT on the outside! Banks and Asuka brawl on the outside, with Asuka laying Sasha out with a superkick before Bayley takes her out in turn. She then rolls up Nikki, using the ropes for leverage.
This was a good match for highlighting Nikki’s ability. I’m still longing for the eventual psycho-heel run, which will be amazing, but it’s great to see Cross get some of the spotlight as a sympathetic face. 2.5 Stars.
Backstage, Jon Morrison understandably has some trepidation about facing Braun Strowman. Although Morrison has faced Strowman before, admittedly in tag team situations. Is it because Braun has recently started talking openly about murdering one of his co-workers? Because that would freak me out in a workplace environment.
I feel like Bray’s reading more into his relationship with Braun than there actually is
Speaking of, here’s Bray Wyatt, who is hanging out near a swamp. He’s looking out at what appears to the be the Wyatt Family Compound, which I was under the impression Randy Orton had burned to the ground. Maybe Bray’s efforts in children’s television allowed him to fund its reconstruction.
Wyatt talks about Braun’s troubled past and clear mental issues that apparently didn’t disqualify him from working for WWE. Bray seems fairly certain that Braun’s going to come back to him, despite the fact that Strowman has been pretty vocal about his plan to murder Wyatt and have his body eaten by alligators.
I’m not going to stop mentioning this: WWE is refusing to investigate a death threat.
Braun Strowman is now our terrifying abusive patriarch
Anyway, here’s Jon Morrison, who will serve as Braun Strowman’s first victim. Strowman shows up onstage, talking some more about hell and the devil, you know, like a non-murderer. Braun genuinely seems crazy-angry, which is really terrifying. He marches to the ring, screaming at Bray Wyatt.
Morrison gets into the ring, which is a terrible decision, and Braun annihilates him. He’s playing the role of a monster heel, and it’s absolutely perfect. Morrison achieves no offence, which is absolutely fine in this scenario. Braun even brings back his old Wyatt Family finisher before planting Morrison with the Running Powerslam.
This has been Braun’s best performance in recent memory, and this managed to psyche me up for the Swamp match more than anything else. 3 Stars.
Braun then gets on the microphone and whispers into it that he’s coming home. Then he starts laughing madly as he leaves the ring.
They sell how goddamn terrifying Braun Strowman is now by fetching a medical team down. Interestingly, Morrison refuses the stretcher, insisting on walking out by himself. Is this the first indicator of a face turn? Also, why do faces have no respect for medical science and precaution?
What, no karaoke contest?
Here’s Lacey Evans, who is here to face Naomi, whom she hates and who just so happens to be black. I’m sure there’s nothing in that at all. Naomi makes her way to the ring, and we get ready for a match that all started because of a karaoke contest.
Naomi drops Lacey in the opening moments, stomping on her leg before slapping her across the face. Lacey regains some control after sweeping Naomi’s feet out from under her, then goes on the attack. Naomi foils a moonsault by raising a pair of knees, then hits a split-legged leg drop onto Evans.
Naomi builds momentum, hitting a hurricanrana and blasting Lacey with a roundhouse kick. Evans counters by tying Naomi’s hair up in the ring post and then walloping her with the Woman’s Right for the victory.
I’m glad we’re back to Heel Lacey Evans, mostly because I hate her and it’s fun when everyone else acts like they do too. 1.5 Stars.
Kayla is backstage with Jeff, asking why he accepted the Bar Room Brawl match. Hardy compares Sheamus to addiction, which I’m sure AA groups are just thrilled by. When asked about the IC title match, Jeff moans about how if it hadn’t been for Sheamus, he could have been part of that match tonight. Fuck off, Jeff: you’d have had to beat Daniel Bryan to even get through the next round in the tournament, at which point you’d have been up against AJ Styles. The fuck outta here.
Then Sheamus blasts Jeff with a Brogue Kick and mocks his alcoholism and addiction issues. HR really needs to step in eventually.
Kayla has already left this scene to go and interview Bayley and Banks. Christ, she’s all about the job. Both women are supremely confident in their chances of victory on Sunday. They spend a few more minutes mocking Nikki, who is shown to be watching this elsewhere with Alexa Bliss.
Cross gives a surprisingly emotional speech where she addresses her own doubts and lack of confidence, and it’s one of the more mature things I’ve seen in WWE until Nikki hears Bayley approaching and dives on her, attacking her rabidly until Alexa and Sasha manage to separate both women.
AJ Styles getting drawn into a run of open challenge matches is my favourite storyline
It’s time for the Intercontinental Championship match, and both Matt Riddle and AJ Styles make their way to the ring. We get the BIGMATCHFEEL announcements, and this title contest gets underway.
Both men feel each other out cautiously, with Styles trying to gain an early advantage with some strikes, only for a flurry from Riddle to leave Styles sprawled on the outside, with a huge kick to the head putting him in trouble as we head to the commercial break.
Post-break, Styles is still in control, working AJ over until Styles manages to toss him neck-first into the ropes, dropping him face-first onto the mat to secure his newfound advantage. Now Riddle is the one who’s in trouble, and AJ begins to go to work on the challenger’s legs.
Riddle suddenly explodes with another volley of offence, keeping Styles off-guard, hitting a GTS and a powerbomb to also win the Championship right there. AJ stays in the match with a vicious forearm, but he eats a quick German suplex seconds later. Riddle runs into a kick from a cornered Styles, but he regains control again with a knee to the head. The Floating Bro misses, and AJ brings Riddle crashing to the mat with a brainbuster.
Styles goes for a Phenomenal Forearm, almost gets caught with the Bro Derek, wriggling his way out of it only for Riddle to hit him with the Broton. Both men engage in a furious exchange of strikes before Styles abruptly alters his tactics, applying the Calf Crusher. Even this isn’t enough, as Riddle answers with the Bromission, with AJ desperately trying to avoid getting locked in the hold. In a last-ditch effort, Styles manages to flip himself on top of Riddle, getting the challenger’s shoulders down for the pin.
Excellent match, and what a showcase for Matt Riddle. AJ gave him a great deal of offence, and it’ll have gone a long way to build Matt into a star. 4 Stars.
Styles wavers, but he finally offers to shake hands with Riddle, who accepts the handshake. Right afterwards, Corbin runs into the ring, assaulting the Original Bro before planting him with the End of Days.
Tags: AJ Styles, AJ Styles vs Matt Riddle, Alexa Bliss, Asuka, bayley, Big E vs Cesaro, Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt, extreme rules, Intercontinental Championship, Jeff Hardy, Jon Morrison vs Braun Strowman, King Corbin, Lacey Evans, Lacey Evans vs Naomi, Matt Riddle, naomi, Nikki Cross, Nikki Cross and Asuka vs Bayley and Sasha Banks, sasha banks, Sheamus, Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro, smackdown, Smackdown Women's Championship, Swamp match, tables match, The New Day, WWE, WWE Extreme Rules